Humor. Keeping a smile on your face and laughter even when times are rough is a balm for the soul. Without laughter, my life is essentially meaningless, and I seek it out daily. It keeps my mind firing and my soul aligned!
As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Heather Hach.
Heather Hach is an accomplished screenwriter, Broadway librettist, and novelist. Her work includes screenwriting for Freaky Friday and What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and she was nominated for a Tony and Drama Desk Award for her work on Legally Blonde: The Musical. She was formerly an improv comedy cast member with ComedySports, an editor at Sports and Fitness Publishing, and a judge on MTV’s reality show “The Search for the Next Elle Woods.” Her upcoming book, The Trouble with Drowning [GreenLeaf Book Group] comes out October 17, 2023.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Ames, Iowa, for the first 10 years of my life, an idyllic college town. I absolutely loved Iowa and had a wonderful crew of creative friends and neighbors. We moved to Loveland, Colorado, at an age when life gets more difficult anyway, and I was not the most keen on being uprooted. I’ve come to absolutely adore Colorado, however.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been a storyteller and grew up telling colossal tales (a.k.a. lies). In fact, my best friend’s mom thought my dad was not my real father for an entire year, as I insisted my parents were divorced (they are very happily married). I knew I had to channel my love of the absurd into stories, and the minute I learned how to read I was hooked. I read voraciously and soon enough I started writing my own (usually horrid) tales.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Every artist is the product of so many factors, and I have multiple people to thank for my journey toward becoming an author. But I have to thank my mom and dad, who always let me be myself — even if I was a little Tasmanian devil of energy and teller of many “mistruths”. When I started telling people all these tall tales, my folks didn’t tell me to stop or punish me, they just cheerfully explained to people I was a storyteller. I think they gave me the wings to be creative and free, to express myself and to have fun. They trusted me and allowed me to be my authentic self. That so helped give me the freedom to pursue my dreams and have confidence it would all work out.
You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Oh, where to begin! I have endlessly wonderful and often strange experiences as a screenwriter, Broadway librettist and author. Perhaps one of the most unusual and thrilling was when I was walking to rehearsals for Legally Blonde the Musical at the Palace Theater the day after the Gypsy run, and the actor David Hyde Pierce stopped me on the street to profusely gush. I was so thrilled — and then realized he thought I was the star of the show, Laura Bell Bundy! That didn’t suck.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made so many mistakes, it’s hard to enumerate them all! Some are more charming than others, but I can recount when writing Legally Blonde, I, well, sort of forgot that I was writing for the stage — which involves this thing called the STAGE. Meaning, it’s a stagnant thing, and you don’t have the luxury of cutting to a new location like you can with film. I was so horrified this most obvious thing I didn’t consider, but I quickly rectified my error. I was so used to writing for film, I had to adjust!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am thrilled to be promoting the release of my adult novel debut, THE TROUBLE WITH DROWNING, which comes out October 17th. There’s a lot of work launching this new book into the world! I’m also mad at work on a new novel called RELATIONSHIP GOALS that I’m equally keen about.
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?
Failure and rejection are part of the process of being an artist. Only with it do you learn, and it also is a reflection of putting yourself out there. Writing is a solitary work and interior, yet it relies on so many other outside forces to help it along. It’s hard to have so much of the creative process dependent on other’s opinions, and it can feel a bit powerless being a professional writer. All you can do is your best work, be true to the craft and the story, and carry on anyway.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I would encourage people to go back to the well that inspired them to pursue their art to begin with! I love reading great work and seeing amazing performances. It’s so inspiring to be reminded of why we love the arts, and it usually invigorates me to return with gusto.
Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
1) A musical ear and sense of pacing. There’s a mystery to the hum of Broadway (and writing in general), and most people who thrive in the industry have an inherent ability to tap into that mysterious rhythm.
2) Good support. It’s a tough industry but surrounding yourself with true friends and collaborators is key to success. Broadway is one of the most collaborative art forms around. Thankfully, the Broadway world attracts such wonderful people, it’s easier to find deep connection.
3) Talent and a point of view. Understand what makes your life and brain a bit different than other’s and exploit your talent. You need to bring a new perspective to the form to rise above. Nurture your uniqueness and celebrate what will separate you from the masses.
4) Resilience. This industry is not for the faint of heart. You must believe in yourself and trudge through the muck, the rejection, the uncertainty. Developing a spine of steele and maintaining an open heart is challenging but imperative!
5) Humor. Keeping a smile on your face and laughter even when times are rough is a balm for the soul. Without laughter, my life is essentially meaningless, and I seek it out daily. It keeps my mind firing and my soul aligned!
For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theater performance are different than the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?
Theater requires such expansive thinking. It demands an ability to develop a bird’s eye view on what is needed for the big picture of the story, and also to pay attention to all of its small details. TV and film can lean into a close-up and use the camera to communicate emotion; the stage does not have this luxury. You have to create that emotional arc for the best seats in the house and the back of the room, and it requires pacing and movement. In the end, a story is a story, and you must tell the best version possible with the medium — suck the marrow from the form.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Oh lord, our world needs so much help, it’s hard to nail down one avenue. I always come back to understanding part of my success comes from knowing I was loved. When you’re supported, it’s easier to tap into your dreams. I want all children to have this basic right, and I’d love to see kids who don’t have much (or any) support to find a voice to advocate for them. Everyone needs to feel wanted, and merging kids with writers and artists to mentor in the arts would be a boon for all!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes comes from the poet Jack Gilbert: “We must risk delight. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”
I believe so wholeheartedly in this belligerent optimism. It’s so easy to feel discouraged in this fickle world, to discount yourself and others, to make excuses, to give up. But to continue to believe, to create and to show up can be challenging but ultimately makes it all worth it.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
If Paul Rudd wants to have dinner, I can pretend I have no family or husband. Just kidding. I’d absolutely adore meeting so many people, it’s hard to think of just one, but I’m going with the maybe unoriginal response of Oprah. She’s just been such a believer in books and the arts, and such an outstanding human. I’d like to get close to her magic pixie dust.
How can our readers continue to follow your work online?
They can follow my Instagram at heatherhachhearne and my web site: www.heatherhach.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!